Popular Hot Rodding:November, 1985

As it fires and heads toward the Los Angeles County Raceway starting line, no one takes notice. What appears to simple be a brightly painted Dodge Charger, has a special secret. As it lights the pre-stage bulb, the front of the Charger bounces as if on air. The stage light comes on and the Chargerlocks down in gear readying for the green. The last amber bulb twinkles out and the charger takes flight sending the front end up out of the lights and planting the rear bumper into the tarmac. The wheelstand continues for the length of the quarter mile to the shock of spectators and racers alike!

What makes this Charger special is that it was designed to be a wheel-stander, one of those dragstripexhibition vehicles that can carry the front wheels the length of the quarter mile, yet maintain a stock type appearance. The brainchild of Richard Sephton, of Mission Hills, California, it does both tasks admirably.

Rich came up with the idea while at work, work being as a mechanic for Warner Brothers Television. For a number of years, Rich had worked almost exclusively building and rebuilding orange Dodge Chargers for the "Dukes of Hazzard" television program. one day it might beinstalling a NOS nitrous oxide system in a car set to jump through the air, the next it might be setting up a sheriff's car to do a roll over. No matter what the job, Rich and his fellow mechanics could handle the mission.

He realized that the Dodge Charger "General Lee," the main character car in the television series, had been asked to do hundreds of different tasks from two wheel "ski" driving to jumping over 200 feet in the air, but never drive on the back two wheels. After approaching the producers of the show, he realized they would be interested in a car capable of such a feat. Two years and $26,000 later the car was completed through much mental and physical fabricating and lots of help from friends. Unfortunately, the series was recently sold to syndication and no further episodes would be produced.

But the story behind the build up of the car is quite interesting. Rich and a number of friends from work including A.J. Thrasher (of A.J. Talks Tech fame), Al Rifkin, Mark Lillenthal, Paul Sayborn, Tom West and Mike Weaver, built many components for the car in their off hours, including the rollcage, the engine/drivetrain subframe and the aluminum tanks which contain the vital engine fluids. Joey Dorton wired the car's electrical system from the full set of Auto Meter gauges down to the Charger taillights, and Bob Lambeck built up the 440-CID engine which powers the machine. Where does the engine sit? We're glad you asked.

In order to get the wheels into the air, all weight was moved to the rear of the car. In this case the engine sits right behind the driver in the back seat. As noted, the engine is a 440-CID Mopar unit set up to run on alcohol by Bob Lambeck of drag racing fame. An Engle camshaft motivates the like-make valvetrain components and Speed Pro pistons and rings fit into the 0.030-inch overside engine bores connected to the crankshaft by Childs & Alberts connecting rods. The 440-CID open chamber cylinder heads keep the compression ratio down so the BDS supercharger system can operate efficiently. A Milodon 10-quart pan and special sump provide excellent lubrication, even wheen the engine is in mid-wheelstand.

Firing the alcohol is a Vertex magneto with a total advance of 2 degrees at 35oo rpm. Headers were designed and built by Joe Ellis of Hooker Headers and much of the accesory components were obtained through Direct Connection. An Enderle Bug catcher fits atop the blower while behind the engine the shifts are controlled through a short Torqueflite transmissionusing an A-1 Torque Converter, a reverse pattern shift valve body and B7M shifter.

Now the trick part. An Eaton one-ton truck rear end was strengthened by the insertion of 4.56-to-1 ratio gears and 1 1/4-inch diameter axles built by Cook's Machine Works. The rear was also outfitted with huge disc rotors from a '76 Cadillac Eldorado and twin Charger disc callipers per rotor. The braking operation is controlled by a turning brake out of a dune buggy, which allows for application of one disc bake caliper per wheel to turn the car when the front wheels leave the ground.

The big change is in the placement of these components. With the engine in the back seat, the rear end is turned around and up at a 45-degrees angle. At the very back of the trunk area is the Casell V-drive, which links to the end of the transmission with one driveshaft and transfers the power down to the rear end through another. Also under the trunk are the homemade water and gasoline tanks keeping as much weight in the back of the Charger as possible.

Because of the plans to use the car on the "Dukes of Hazzard" television show, the Charger was painted orange and a rebel flag painted atop the roof. Except for the huge Firestone 12.2X32X15-inch rear slicks, the car looks like a stock Charger right down to the American Hurricane rims as per "Dukes' "code.

The interior was also outfitted with the "Dukes' " touch as the seats and interior are the standard buckskin coloring found in all the shows. The buckskin and brown motif continued throgh the engine compartment as Durbin and Castellaw carpeted the wheel tubs and other frame components. Special vinyl snap coverings were made to keep the roll bar in matching color.

Plans for the Charger are to head for the wheelstanding circut (if a sponsorship comes throught) with Rich's crew, his wife Michele and assistants Angela and Justin Sephton. It's too bad the "Dukes of Hazzard" didn't remain on the air. Boss Hogg's face as the Duke boys drove off on two wheels would have been a sight.

This page was created on Dec. 13, 2001

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